The balance of Sunday's demonstration

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By SERGIO E. FERRAZ*

The message for Ustrapalooza Sunday is, in practice, addressed mainly to Tarcísio de Freitas, Romeu Zema, Ronaldo Caiado and Michele Bolsonaro

What is the net balance for Jair Bolsonaro from Sunday's act? Basically, to show, to those vying for his spoils, that he continues to be, by far, the main leader of the right-wing camp and that, if they want to count on his support, in future elections, they should include an amnesty proposal in their platforms, which includes you, naturally.

The message from Ustrapalooza Sunday is, therefore, in practice, addressed mainly to Tarcísio de Freitas, Romeu Zema, Ronaldo Caiado and Michele Bolsonaro.

It is certainly not what Jair Bolsonaro would want, but it is what is within his reach at the present moment: showing mobilization capacity and “retaining loyalty” to potential heirs, avoiding an early loss of control of the right-wing camp. In particular, require the amnesty clause as a condition of support. For the umpteenth time in his career, the former captain seeks, when cornered, first of all, to save his own skin and exempt himself from responsibilities. Since Gandu, no surprises.

Other, more ambitious objectives, such as intimidating the STF and avoiding his arrest, or creating a situation in which, in Congress, a majority would be produced capable of approving, from now on, measures that would guarantee his impunity and that of his closest circle, would depend on the ability of the far right to show strength to subvert public order and turn the tables. Or at the very least to strongly destabilize the political process. Sunday's demonstration, although large, with almost 200 thousand participants, is clearly far from representing a threat of this nature.

In fact, this strength, capable of leading to a regime rupture, was exactly what Jair Bolsonaro and his group demonstrated they did not possess throughout the presidential term and, especially, in the final months that led to the failed putsch of January 08, 2023, despite all the efforts made and which are now coming to light with the investigations.

They didn't have that strength when they were in power. Obviously, they now have much less destabilization capacity. And that is why intimidation of the Judiciary and the ability to guide Congress to obtain immediate amnesty are goals outside the concrete horizon of Bolsonarism today.

Unfortunately for Jair Bolsonaro, among other factors, his personal purposes remain divorced from the short and medium-term objectives of the Armed Forces. Before the change of guard at Planalto, most of the Army High Command probably understood that they had more to lose than to gain from a Bolsonarist coup, thus avoiding its consummation, despite the existing pressures. They were unable to exchange a privileged budgetary and salary position for subordination to an extremist who would act, after the rupture, free from the constraints of the Rule of Law.

After Lula's rise, that is, in the current scenario, with ongoing investigations accumulating evidence of the coup plot, it is part of the military leaders' intentions to use the arrest of Jair Bolsonaro and his generals as proof (doubtful, certainly) that the corporation was guided by legality. Once again, the purposes of Jair Bolsonaro and Caterva clash with the calculations of the Armed Forces, taking credibility away from any threats they may attempt to make.

In short, the Sunday of reactionary senior citizens on Avenida Paulista ended without altering in any way the chances of Jair Bolsonaro and his gang suffering due criminal liability. If we believe what some jurists and the Federal Police say, his talk actually contributed to worsening his situation, demonstrating his full knowledge of the drafts that sought to give legal color to the ongoing coup. The prospect of an amnesty in the distant future, with many “ifs” and “others” along the way, is all that Jair Bolsonaro can count on today.

PS: Many analysts highlight the religious nature of the event. They are correct. This growth in the religious dimension seems to result from the retreat, in the coalition that supported Jair Bolsonaro in recent years, of the military and business sectors, which seek, in different ways, and for different reasons, to adapt to the new circumstances. Therefore, Bolsonarism and the extreme right tend to dress in even more strongly religious clothing in the near future. This should stimulate the search for bridges with evangelicals in the Planalto and on the left – so far not very fruitful. But that's another story.

*Sergio Eduardo Ferraz holds a doctorate in political science from USP.


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